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What does a ticket to space get you?

All commercial flights to space so far have been suborbital flights — they don’t do a complete orbit of the earth; they briefly go up into space and then come back down.

Each of the major companies offer a basic experience of space flight: customers take a rocket to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere (approximately 50 miles) and spend 10 minutes experiencing weightlessness before re-entry.

All passengers, regardless of how wealthy they are, still need to undergo physical training in order to board one of the rockets.

At Virgin’s Spaceport America in New Mexico, over the course of a few days, customers receive training in emergency procedures, as well as how to prepare for G-force and weightlessness.

SpaceX and Blue Origin both use the “immersion method” to train their clients, placing them in simulators to help prepare them for the journey.

While you will have to pass a medical questionnaire and check-up before you climb aboard, you can’t “fail” the physical training part of the mission, which is meant to prepare you physically and mentally.

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When will the “average Joe” get to go?

Some experts believe that space travel could become feasible for the average citizen as early as 2050.

But, in an interview with CNN, aerospace engineer Ron Epstein asserted that in order to provide affordable space travel, spacecrafts will have to be a lot bigger, so that the cost of each trip can be spread out across more people.

Blue Origin auctioned off its first commercial ticket in 2021 for $28 million, with the money supporting their charitable initiative, Club Future, which encourages children to get involved in careers in science and technology.

There have since been a handful of other paying customers, who have each paid about $1 million. While they have yet to fully open to “civilian” space flyers, if you want, you can submit an online application to be considered for their next crewed mission.

After a few years’ hiatus, in the last half of 2023, Virgin Galactic rebounded with six flights in as many months. Looking ahead, it has canceled all of the flights it had booked in 2024 and cut 18% of its workforce in order to funnel all its profits towards building a new vessel, the Delta spaceplane.

Of the three main commercial space flight companies, the most mysterious and ambitious is SpaceX. Not only does Elon Musk want to send civilians to space, he wants to build a city on Mars.

Although insiders think his chances are far-fetched, Musk claims that by 2050 he can build a city of over a million people on Mars. He plans to have the first person on the Red Planet by 2029.

In terms of commercial space travel, in 2021 SpaceX was able to send a few “civilians” to space for three days on its Crew Dragon. Inspiration4 was chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacson, who donated the other three seats.

Extraterrestrial accommodations

Where will people stay when they arrive in outer space?

For those fliers who are able to afford the price of several million dollars to make it there, they may have access to luxury accommodations within a few years.

In 2019, designs for the first space hotel were released by the Gateway Foundation.

By 2022, the project had been taken over by Above: Space Development Corporation (previously known as Orbital Assembly), which announced that The Voyager, a planned 400-person capacity, earth-orbiting hotel, was slated to open in 2027.

Shortly afterwards, Above revealed plans for a much smaller “pied-a-space”, the Pioneer. Pioneer, which is projected to have a 28-person capacity, is already open for reservations.

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Beam me up, hopefully, Scotty!

Affordable space tourism happening by 2050 is just a 2023 estimate. Since the Space Race of the 1960s, our collective ambition for space travel has often been hindered by practicality.

For the foreseeable future, space travel seems like it will only be accessible to people with millions in their bank account. But when it comes to space tech, things can change at the speed of light.

In a 2021 Yahoo interview, Chad Anderson, managing partner of venture capital firm Space Capital, said, “10 years ago, the entire space economy was a handful of defense contractors and the government … it was a very limited market. And SpaceX fundamentally changed the economics of space and provided access to the 1,600 or so privately funded companies that we're tracking to date. So massive change (is) driving a lot of innovation.”

If you’ve always dreamed about soaring high above the pale blue dot, who knows? You may be able to take the trip sooner than you think.

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Bronwyn Petry Email Specialist

Bronwyn is currently part of the email content team for Moneywise. Before starting here, they freelanced for several years, focusing on B2B content and technical copy. Pre-pandemic, you could find them planning their next trip, but lately, if they're not at work, you can find them hanging out with their cat and dog.

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